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Zero Waste Cities Collaborative

In February 2017, CAG joined a collaborative of ten cities in India, Indonesia and the Phillipines that will work to reduce plastic pollution on land and in our oceans through (1) ward-level waste audits, (2) data collection on problematic plastic waste in oceans and rivers. Using data from multiple sites and some product research, our project will publicly identify these products/materials in order to catalyse much-needed innovation in product/packaging design.

Plastic waste constitutes between 60% and 80% of marine debris and is “one of the world’s most pervasive pollution problems impacting our oceans and waterways,” according to the U.N. Much of this waste enters from countries in the Asia Pacific region, where rapid urbanization, growth of megacities, increased consumption, extensive coastlines and waterways, and minimal waste infrastructure cause high levels of plastic leakage into oceans. Up to 90% of seabirds today have plastic in their stomachs, and this will reach 99% by 2050 under current projections of plastic production and disposal. Unless we take action to slow and ultimately stop plastic pollution at its source, there will be more plastics than fish in the ocean by 2050. The vast majority of plastic waste originates on land, and reaches the oceans because of unsustainable product design and inadequate waste management systems. It is clear that a dramatic intervention is needed, one which demonstrates transformative zero waste systems at the local level and uses data to drive sustainable redesign of production and consumption. 

Approach: 

We will conduct thorough waste audits at chosen impact sites to identify specific problem materials. To complement ward-level audits, we will identify what materials are most commonly littered or escape the waste stream and enter our oceans. A thorough waste audit will identify specific problem materials (for example sachets, coffee capsules, juice boxes, Styrofoam for take-out food, etc.). We will also undertake an analysis of brand data in waste audits in order to advocate for producer responsibility of waste. Currently, there is no good method or policy for handling post-consumer waste like styrofoam, tetrapaks, and non woven polypropylene. These materials break down into tiny pieces and find their way to water bodies and the ocean.  However, there is insufficient data on the quantity of products being consumed and discarded, alternative policies to reduce leakage into oceans, availability of alternative products or services, and information on consumer behavior in the market. Using this data, we will produce a report on producer responsibility options.

Outcomes: 

“Zeroing in on Waste” will reduce marine plastic pollution through high-impact zero waste projects and data analysis that analyses a mix of urban waste streams, beaches and waterways. This work is also important because of the co-benefits that zero waste systems include for public health and economic growth. It includes increased recognition for and formal integration of the informal waste workers whose critical environmental efforts have previously gone under the radar. This will include issuance of official identity cards, which allows them access to critical services and fewer legal obstacles.

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